In this week's Nature, Harvard University researchers describe how the burrowing behavior of oldfield mice is driven by just a few genetic loci, in a modular fashion, offering insights into the genetic basis of innate behaviors. Oldfield mice create complex burrows with long entrance and escape tunnels. In contrast, closely related deer mice dig small and simple burrows. "Genetic crosses between the two species reveal that the derived burrows of oldfield mice are dominant and evolved through the addition of multiple genetic changes." Entrance tunnel length is controlled by at least three independent regions, while the presence of an escape tunnel is linked to just one locus. According to the authors, these two behaviors evolved independently and may result from the accumulation of genetic changes, each with modular effects.
Meanwhile, in Nature Genetics, an international, multi-institute team report a whole-genome sequence of a moth species, Plutella xylostella, providing insights into the genetic and molecular bases for the evolutionary success of this worldwide insect. The genome was found to contain 18,071 protein-coding and 1,412 unique genes with an expansion of gene families associated with perception and the detoxification of plant defense compounds. "A recent expansion of retrotransposons near detoxification-related genes and a wider system used in the metabolism of plant defense compounds are shown to also be involved in the development of insecticide resistance."
Daily Scan's sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News has more on the moth genome here.